Monday, February 22, 2010 –
Speakers: Keith Locke Green MP, Barry Wilson, Lawyer, Auckland Council for Civil Liberties.
The Search and Surveillance Bill currently before Parliament is a serious threat to civil liberties in New Zealand. It broadly increases the powers of the police and other government agencies to monitor, search and detain individuals for minor and nonexistent infringements.
One of the most worrying concerns is that the Bill undermines the right of silence by allowing the police to apply for ‘examination orders’ which will force defendants to answer questions. This right has traditionally protected all citizens of free democracies from making forced statements and is a cornerstone of our fair and free trial proceedings. The Human Rights Commission has raised concerns that ‘examination orders’ could be used by police against trade unionists and political activists accused of minor charges, such as trespass.
Events in recent years – such as the legally questionable ‘terror raids’ of October 2007 and the exposure of Rob Gilchrist, a paid police informant employed to infiltrate activist groups, including SAFE, Greenpeace, and the Green Party – clearly show that the curtailment of civil rights is not simply an abstract issue, but is one than should be taken very seriously.